On June 18, 1977, I married my children’s father. Of course, he wasn’t their father on that day. They were distant possibilities at that time. I had just turned 19 and he was a few months shy of 21. In retrospect, we were babies. At the time, we were sure we were fully grown adults capable of not only making the decision to marry, but capable of making the marriage work and last.
We were wrong. It was a tumultuous relationship between two people who were too young to take on the responsibilities of a family. Due to our own issues, we fought often and loudly. One of our earlier exchanges still makes me laugh at my own audacity.
My then 20 year old husband had been somewhat coddled by his mother. He frequently would inform me of all the things I wasn’t doing that his mother had done for him. The example he gave me on this particular day was that his mother always made his lunch for him each morning and he didn’t see why I couldn’t do the same. Fed up, I smiled sweetly at him and helpfully suggested he try certain other things with his mother and to let me know how that worked for him. I never again heard him start a sentence with the phrase, “My mother always…” I’ve got to give him credit for learning relatively quickly.
The marriage lasted 11 years and produced 3 wonderful young women. For years I felt like a failure because, despite my determination to stay married, we still couldn’t make our marriage work. I’ve learned since that getting a divorce did not mean we failed. It means we tried and weren’t able to make it work. After being divorced far longer than we were married, we not only can be in the same room with relative comfort, we’ve also become Facebook friends. In fact, he even wished me a happy birthday on Facebook this year. The irony is that he never remembered to do so when we were married. Kudos to us both for finally growing up.
After that divorce I wasn’t inclined to get married again. So, instead of marrying the next man I was serious about, we lived together for 18 years. There were times when one or the other of us thought it would be a good idea to get married, but thank God, we were never in the mood at the same time.
He did the washing, the cooking, the cleaning and the shopping. Basically, he took on all the traditional “woman’s work” while I paid the bills. Being pampered like that was delightful and I put up with a lot of dysfunction in exchange for being spoiled. He not only set a very high bar for any other man to enter my life, he showed my daughters every day what it looked like for a man to do the housework.
This man and I only fought a few times. We usually chose to take our frustration or anger out on the other one by inflicting deep, painful guilt on each other. Despite that, I spent most of those years happy to see him at the end of each day when I would get home from work. When, for good reason, I know longer felt that way, I should’ve ended the relationship then and there. Instead, we spent 3 more years together, both miserable but neither one of us wanting to be the one to end it. In the time since we’ve gone our separate ways he has lost contact with my daughters and no one has any idea where he is or how he is doing. I hope he’s found happiness and contentment.
Since that relationship ended, I have dated a number of different men. Actually, I’ve been told I kept dating the same man, but with different names and faces. I have to agree with that consensus. I have a weak spot for a tall, athletic man who can make me laugh and who communicates well. Never mind if none of these gorgeous men would make me a priority, or treat me with the respect I deserved, they were purty and didn’t put any demands on me. By accepting their behaviors, I was encouraging them to continue to act inappropriately and maybe to act even worse. But, did I mention they were all gorgeous?
After more than 8 years on my own, I’m still trying to figure out how to retain my freedom and independence and still be in a satisfying relationship. It’s a subject my single friends and I spend a lot of time discussing. A few years ago, in my process of trying to define what I want, I wrote the following affirmation:
I deserve, and am ready for, a man who is Available, Able to Plan, Accepting, Appreciative, Attentive, Attractive, Athletic, A Best Friend, Companionable, Comfortable, Compassionate, Confident, Exciting, Faithful, Funny, Honest, Independent, Interesting, Kind, Loving, Nice, Nurturing, Positive, Present, Rational, Respectful, Single, Smart, Spontaneous, Stable and Strong. A man who I can be with or apart from and we both still continue to grow in the relationship. He will be ready to nurture me, cherish me and make me a priority in his life. Love can feel warm, accepting and present. I am ready to be happy. Love is all around me. I am lovable and loving.
It will take a very special person to fill my order, but I don’t think it’s impossible. In the meantime, I think I’ll quit accepting drama and/or disrespect and just take some time off from being in a relationship. I have a wonderful, full life on my own and when I am alone, I am alone by choice. I can learn from the ghosts of relationships past, acknowledge the dysfunction of relationships of the present and look forward to the possibility of a healthy relationship in the future.
God bless us, every one.